Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The bad smell from the VW emissions scandal looks like it’s going to hang in the air for quite a bit longer yet.


This week it was alleged that VW funded a medical research group to lobby against the growing body of academic evidence that diesel emissions are a serious threat to public health. There were reports of more lobbying too with VW spending 3.3 million Euros courting European Commission policy makers in Brussels.  News like this casts an uncomfortable shadow over the whole European motor industry and is the reason why there’s now much more anti-car rhetoric with the media aiming their guns squarely at the car industry, which let’s face it, isn’t looking very good right now.  But we believe it’s important to understand that the increase in volume of car-negativity is a continuing example of the long-running battle between left and right where the car is the symbol of villainy. 


This class-based warfare has been raging for years and we saw it at its most strident in the Blair years where there was a tacit policy in Westminster to make driving as difficult and expensive as possible. Congestion charging, speed cameras, cancellation of road building projects and fuel escalators were all government policies aimed at reducing car use.  And we all remember the point when the nation realised the rhetoric had become too rabid when Ken Livingstone proposed a £25 congestion charge for SUVs entering London. This was based on nothing more than the fact that London’s mayor hated SUVs and everybody who drove them.  It wasn’t rational.  


But the actions of VW have reignited this class war and strengthened the resolve of the anti-car lobby across Europe. Air quality and the health dangers of diesel have catapaulted our dependency on the car to the front page and there’s growing pressure on the UK Government to appease a growing body of anxious green campaigners.  That means a likely increase in the duty on diesel and we’re hearing rumours from inside the Treasury that petrol duty may even reduce to persuade drivers to switch back to unleaded fuel.  At FairFuelUK we agree that diesel emissions are a serious health issue and that much more independent research needs to be carried out to establish just how bad things really are and, critically, if the modern diesel engine has reached the peak of its emission reduction. But, as we’ve said before, reducing diesel use – especially on older cars, vans, buses and LCVs - is both a priority and a problem. We need to reduce particulate and NOx emissions but we can’t do this overnight.


We’re writing to the Chancellor to counsel caution and remind him that our road-based economy is heavily reliant on diesel and any precipitous moves to increase fuel costs for families and businesses as an environmental gesture should be carefully considered. But we’re also going to remind him that the Government and green campaigners were ultimately responsible for creating the diesel issue in the first place by warning us all that CO2 was the major problem and ignoring what is almost as serious - particulates and nitrogen emissions. We know that Whitehall knew about the increase in diesel emissions in our towns and cities as far back as 2009. Green pressure groups are right to highlight the seriousness of air quality in the UK but they’ve also got to admit some responsibility for moving us towards much higher levels of diesel use along with the unintended consequences of causing that behavioral shift among UK drivers.


FairFuel isn’t a lobbying group it’s an independent not-for-profit campaign with 1.2 million supporters. We’re totally transparent in our funding sources and receive no money whatsoever from the car or oil industries. We’re supported by the road haulage and telematics industry plus donations from members of the public and our agenda is simple: to reduce the cost of road transport in the UK to stimulate economic growth. We believe that’s an honourable aim (and one that’s helped increase UK GDP by 0.5%) but we support road use because the UK’s current public transport resources can’t cope at the moment, never mind if 37 million drivers suddenly left their cars and vans at home and jumped on trains and buses. That way disaster lies. We think that being pro-roads is a reasonable and defensible position and make no apologies. We’re honest, open and informed and realise the daily challenges faced by the road haulage industry and private drivers who simply want to get to work.


And somebody has to be. There are very few distinct and trustworthy voices out there to protect our essential road economy and the right of affordable free movement for everybody. Our experience of government roads policy thus far isn’t great and we worry about the surprising gaps in their knowledge. As for our environmental credentials, I believe they’re sound too. We’ve campaigned for greater use of electric and ultra low emission cars, drive EVs and hybrids ourselves, I’ve just been given an EV Champion award and for many years have worked with the Government on promoting the take up of EVs in the UK.  We understand that encouraging the use of cleaner cars is essential and totally support any initiative to increase public engagement. So as the war against cars and roads becomes louder and more vociferous FairFuelUK will continue to provide the intellectual light, shade and balance to help protect the millions of hard-working drivers who simply have no other choice.      


Quentin Willson

• VW • Volkswagen • Quentin Willson • FairFuelUK • NOx • Particulates • Emissions • Pollution • MPG 

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[ posted by Graham, 27.10.15 18:17 ]

You've said most of what can be said at the present time. Also the ultra high fuel prices over recent years has helped put a lot of folk into debt with the banks.


[ posted by Eddie Lovett, 27.10.15 18:27 ]

Quentin Wilson you and the TOP GEAR Programmes were also part of the problem ! You were told by Gordon Wise of Autogas 2000 and our small organisation The Autogas Installers and Retailers, that there were major pollution (PAH and BAP) problems with DIE SEL, but you all ignored him and us. You were not alone magazines like Mikes Mouth place did one excellent article then was warned if they kept it up all advertising would be switched off. The Glasgow Herald did one and that was it. All papers were "controlled" by this means. STV by adverts, BBC by government. Please I am not getting at you but please remember that we really should be on LPG and that NO hybrid is clean if it has a DIE SEL engine no matter how small it is ! IF ONLY we had gone LPG the compression ratio of Petrol engines like the Jaguars would have meant that power would have been available in the car engines and be cleaner still. Or how about a dedicated higher compression LPG engine being made now and made available not difficult to do ! ASAP


[ posted by Leslie Cruickshank, 27.10.15 19:05 ]

The U.K. Governments lack of concern doesn't stop at the new vehicle testing regime, but continues through vehicle life. If the MOT testing procedures had been anything like new vehicle testing, this problem would have been spotted much earlier. We have been encouraged to replace older vehicles with new cleaner versions, but we now know that the new vehicles are actually no cleaner than the ones they have replaced. Then, because the various emissions equipment saps up power, owners quickly remove catalytic converters, and install power boosting re-maps, all appearantly invisible to the MOT testing procedure.
This same lapse testing procedure applies to just about all aspects of car maintainence, with owners free to carry out all sorts of mods that might not be allowed on a new car, such as the current craze for LED day running lights, or retro fit HID lights, all without having to comply with any testing procedure.


[ posted by Howie Bolt, 27.10.15 19:32 ]

In modern diesel cars,DPF,s collect the soot particles....whilst driving...albeit urban mostly....WHEN...and they will,they clog up....It is a requirement to purge the engine...60 mph 2/3rd gear,for a good way,until,whoosh the particles are free????...In normal driving without a DPF filter,these are emitted into the atmosphere anyway,what a con?...My 1999 Merc 250 TD Auto,39,000mls will do for me...[50 years a mechanic,now retired].....Check out the Kyoto Protocol 1992,on Wikepedia....we are a small Island,and will we make a difference? I don,t think so....My lively hood was curtailed by Euro-Boxes,and their emmisions......grrr


[ posted by Iain Marsh, 28.10.15 06:23 ]

I agree totally with QW's remarks that we were misled about the green credentials of going diesel. However, they are more fuel efficient and using less has to be good. The next big con is HYBRIDS. Hands up who is cheating the BIK with an Outlander PHEV? Are you really getting 150 odd mpg? BMW i8, Prius etc etc. All subject to the same EU tests that do not allow batteries to go flats and the vehicle run on the engine alone. The scam is the test itself, not the cars.


[ posted by Alex Black, 29.10.15 21:26 ]

Funny how reports today are about people born after war are likely to live longer over 75 all have been fed fumes most of their lives what's
scientists response to that or without the fumes they'll live to over 100 makes you think. Should they not be happy something killing them off not having to pay pensions all these extra years?
I`ll keep using my diesel as long as it keeps getting over 58 to every gallon and when necessary does 150 mph


[ posted by Peter Brooks, 24.11.15 17:22 ]

Whatever fuel is used in cars, the anti car brigade will jump on the "Let's ban them" wagon. I've driven diesel cars for the past 22 years, mainly because I have towed with them. You never see petrol HGV's. A lot of company cars are specified diesel. Petrol vehicles have become far less thirsty, but still when being filled, the fumes smelt contain carcinogenic Benzine. A petrol car in an accident is far more likely to catch fire, not good if you're trapped inside. All carbon fuels used in vehicles have their hazards including LPG. NOX is the concern from diesels, also particulates PM10 are of concern. Particulates from petrol engines PM2.5 may be even worse. As technology progresses, fuels better refined etc we have seen considerable reduction in pollutants being emitted from vehicles, even aircraft.

I lived in Maidstone, Kent in the 40' and 50' and remember walking to school through smog, with black arounds my eyes, mouth and nostrils from the soot in the atmosphere, and the constant smell of burning coal. Now that was big style pollution!


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